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Watch Chris Cornell’s Heart-Wrenching Solo Acoustic Performance of “Black Hole Sun”

Chris Cornell performs live on stage during his acoustic 'Songbook' tour, at London Palladium on June 18, 2012 in London, United Kingdom
(Image credit: Jim Dyson/Redferns via Getty Images)

Chris Cornell (1964-2017) was best known as the frontman of alternative rock titans Soundgarden and Audioslave, though his solo acoustic performances were equally electrifying. A prolific songwriter, Cornell’s catalog also comprises several solo albums and soundtrack credits – notably, the James Bond theme song "You Know My Name" and his final release, "The Promise."

Cornell first became serious about playing acoustic guitar in the early days of Soundgarden – the band he co-founded in Seattle during the mid-’80s and with whom he would achieve multi-platinum-selling international success with in the ‘90s.

But it wouldn’t be until the Audioslave era of the ‘00s when Cornell performed his first solo acoustic show. “I struggled a little, ’cause I had never done it before,” he told Acoustic Guitar magazine in 2015. “I played some songs acoustically that I’d never played acoustically before. It all worked – in that context right then and there.”

Chris Cornell of Soundgarden performs an acoustic set hosted by 99.9 KISW at Aston Manor on April 10, 2013 in Seattle, Washington.

(Image credit: Mat Hayward/FilmMagic)

Before long, Cornell was touring as a solo artist and further developing his craft as an acoustic performer. “It was just a matter of allowing myself to do it, allowing myself to struggle, and allowing myself to figure out what the feel of an acoustic instrument is,” he said.

Cornell’s acoustic guitar of choice for the stage was often a Martin D-28 Marquis – a classic Dreadnought design featuring an Adirondack spruce top with forward-shifted scalloped X-bracing, East Indian rosewood back and sides, and ebony fingerboard and bridge. And in this 2017 clip from CBS This Morning, Cornell uses the guitar to perform the Soundgarden smash “Black Hole Sun.”

Appearing on the band’s 1994 album Superunknown and released as a single that year, he reportedly wrote a large portion of the song in his head during a car journey. "I wrote the song thinking the band wouldn't like it,” he told one interviewer. “Then it became the biggest hit of the summer.”

Click here (opens in new tab) to purchase Chris Cornell’s acoustic live album Songbook.

Chris Cornell 'Songbook' album artwork

(Image credit: Universal Music Enterprises)

Rod Brakes is a music writer with an expertise in all things guitar-related. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a journalist covering artists, industry pros and gear includes writing hundreds of articles and features for the likes of Guitarist, Total Guitar, Guitar World, Guitar Player and MusicRadar, as well as contributions for specialist books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.